The Man Who Made His Exit
I do admit the fabliau
Is not a common form, and so
Let me explain what this's about:
The other night, as I was out
Perambulating through the town
(Coronavirus gets me down:
I find I need to exercise
Or else I swear that my demise
Will be this quarantine) I heard,
Right down by Penn and 43rd,
A big commotion. Of course I went
To see what so disturbed the unt-
Il then quite peaceful evening. There
A man was standing, stark and bare,
Unclothèd to the skin, I’d say,
As he was (likely) on the day
His mother bore him. I felt shock,
I won’t deny it, because that block
Is in a part of town where you’d
Expect the folks to not go nude.
(They must get naked, the bourgeoisie,
But only in utmost privacy.)
As I was saying, this man was bare
And though I didn’t exactly stare,
I noticed he was young, like me,
And, like me, quite attractive. Once he
Regained his breath - he had been wheezing
As from a run his lungs displeasing -
He told me the adventure that
Had brought him there. And what was at
The start distressing and unclear
Became the story of the year:
Some wit, some daring, youthful love,
Both sex and intrigue - in short, all of
The things you need for a good story.
It’s not a secret, don’t you worry -
Just stick around, if you’ve got time -
I’ve put it into limping rhyme
To please at least the untrained ear.
You want a laugh? Just wait; you'll hear.
In town, it seems, there lived a pair
Of friends, and each was known to share
A mutual esteem, for both
Were high-born, virtuous, and loth
To do a single ill-formed deed.
They got on very well indeed,
And as you may expect were much
Pursued - but neither’d loved, for such
Were their high standards that no girl
Could manage to set their heads awhirl.
Until, that is, this June just passed,
When each contrived to love at last,
And told it to the other - our hero’s
(the first of these two friends, as clear as
You’ll have expected) words were these:
“I’ve met a maiden that can please
The most exalted sight, for she’s
Both fair and lovely, chaste, and ease
Attends her every stir or motion - ”
His friend, with equal strong emotion,
Replies: “and so have I, as fate
Would have it, and I’m sure my mate
Is just as lovely, if not somewhat
More lovely still, though strife is dumb: what
Would be the use of choosing whose
Is lovelier, when each who views
His love must feel the same?” And so
Throughout the summer each did go
In secret to enjoy his lover,
With no more talking whatsoever.
It was a pleasant set-up, but
There was a fatal flaw: what
Our hero’s dear beloved hadn’t
Told him was she was married. Maddened
By unfulfilled desire, she’d
Selected him to meet a need
Neglected by her loutish hubby
(who had, it seems, grown somewhat tubby
And too remiss in those hard duties
All women’re justly owed, and beauties
Most of all). Of course we don’t
Begrudge the lady pleasure, won’t
Adopt the moral line: she had a gap
That needed filled, and in her lap
Fate dropped a lover - no problem there -
And as for our brave hero fair
Of course he swears he wouldn’t have
(but might just mean he shouldn’t have)
Had he been told beforehand she
Was married - but he was in too deeply
By that late time that he found out
To make it worth his pulling out.
So thus it stood the day our man
Had with his lover made a plan
To enjoy a little matinée -
They rendezvoused, were making hay
Dum lucet sol - while their sun shined -
On top, below, above, behind,
In lovers’ long-accustomed way,
Believing each they had all day.
But in the midst of their enjoyment
They heard a strange and sudden noise, meant
That someone had unlocked the door,
Was coming up the stairs. Our poor
Disrobèd hero had no time
To think: she quickly bade him climb
Into the bathtub, hid his clothes,
And went to see who’d be disclosed
At the bedroom door. Guess who was there?
Her husband? No: our hero’s pair!
Nor did he wait to make his greeting -
Nor did she hesitate - the meeting
Could hardly have been warmer: she
Unsated by the former, he,
Who had been reading fabliaux
Of mine, was ready, too, to go.
While she drank deep to slake her thirst
Our hero, as far as ever he durst,
Peeked through the door to see who she
Was greeting thus voraciously.
(At once the mystery was gone
Of how all summer in rhyme and song
They’d chanced to sing their mistress’ praises
In uncannily convergent phrases -
Not that they couldn’t’ve resolved the same
With that simple expedient, naming names.)
He understood the plot at once,
Was experienced and suave, no dunce,
Retreated as before to wait until
She’d had her fourth - her fifth - her fill.
It might have worked (it has before)
But then: another knocking door!
The husband had come home - not early,
But all too soon for his dear girlie
Who was, we know, still occupied -
No time to wait: she him inside
The adjacent bathroom quickly thrust,
Which our brave hero himself had just
Vacated - through the window, down
The trellis, and onto the lawn
Where he couldn’t help but overhear,
Beginning round the third, his dear.
As homeward he unclothèd stole
I ran across him in my stroll,
And listened as he told his fable
(Which I’ve told you, as best I’m able).
The story heard, you may be sure
I stood amazed. Our hero, for
His part, looked forward to the morrow:
He didn’t blame her that she borrowed
From where she could her love: he’d meet
Her needs, her need to be discreet.
“But what of jealousy?” I said.
“Of women and their love,” he said,
“Exclusive right’s too much to ask:
No one man’s equal to the task.”
So there you have it, listeners -
Pray do no harm to messengers -
I’ve told it as it was, I swear,
With no additions, fair and square.
Ye ladies: did she manage well?
Lust is deadly, but it’s hell
Twice over if with lust you burn
Up here, and every lover spurn.
Ye gentlemen: is this tale able
To teach you, first, to be available?
To be at hand is half the battle;
The other half, to be no tattle.
For you who’ve heard, and have denied it:
Well? And have you ever tried it?